How to Work With Windows Easy Transfer Reports

OK, so you’ve read our tutorials and you’ve run Windows Easy Transfer to transfer your data to your new computer and/or operating system. I’m sure you’re wondering what to do next. Windows Easy Transfer has created a comprehensive report that will help you decide. Since I just installed Windows 7 on my main computer a few days ago (I was a long-time, die-hard Windows XP holdout, believe it or not) I will show how the Windows Easy Transfer Reports look on my computer and how they can help. You’ll be able to see that I could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d read our tutorials before I got started (but they have not been published yet before I began, I can use that as an excuse!).

Getting Started

You may find the Windows Easy Transfer Reports already listed on your Start Menu.

If it’s not there, just start typing the word "easy" and it will turn up immediately.

Click to open up the Windows Easy Transfer Reports. All the reports are split between two tabs: Transfer report and Program report. Also, the number of reports shown in the Transfer report will vary depending on how much data you’ve transferred.

Alternatively, you will find it under Start Menu -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools.

Let’s take a look at the "Program settings" report, found in the "Transfer report" tab. Remember, Windows Easy Transfer doesn’t copy the programs themselves, but it does its best to transfer the settings so that when you reinstall your software you’ll be ready to go.

As you can see, Windows Easy Transfer copied over the settings for some of my Adobe and Microsoft software (yes, I’m a die-hard Microsoft Office 2003 holdout too). But like most people, I had a lot more than just those programs installed, and here’s where things start to get interesting.

Microsoft made a lot of changes in Windows 7, and among those changes was the removal of things like Windows Movie Maker and Windows Outlook Express. Both of them are now included in Windows Live Essentials (Outlook Express has been replaced by Windows Live Mail) which is available as a separate download from the Microsoft web site. If you had those programs installed, Windows Easy Transfer Reports will tell you they’re not included in Windows 7, right at the top of the Program report.

When there is more information available online, there’s a downward-facing arrow next to the software name and a link below the name that will take you to what is available. I’ll show you this in more detail later.

And now comes the fun part

The next section on Windows Easy Transfer Reports shows you all the software that you had on the old computer, and any programs that didn’t get mentioned in the "settings were transferred" section will need to be reinstalled and reconfigured. If you’ve been using the computer for any length of time, this list can be very long. And unfortunately I could find no easy way to print the list out for reference.

So, rather than keep returning to the Windows Easy Transfer Reports after every reinstallation and system restart, I made sure my default printer driver was installed, then did a series of screen captures and imported those into Paint to be printed out. I am sure there must be a much more efficient way to do this, and if you know how to do it better I would appreciate it if you’d leave a comment explaining how. UPDATE: Later we found an easy and efficient way to print the reports. You can find it described here: How to Print a Windows Easy Transfer Report.

As you scroll through the list, you’ll see that Windows Easy Transfer Reports lists the programs alphabetically by the names of the people or companies who produced the software. In most cases this is straightforward (as you can see in the example above where Adobe Systems Incorporated is listed) but in other cases the programmer’s or company’s name bears no relation to the software. You’ll have to take a look at each one individually to see what the report is talking about. Here, my e-book reader software (Calibre) and my word processor (Scrivener) are listed according to the names of the people or companies that released them.

If Windows has reinstalled a program, or if you’ve reinstalled it before you look at the report, a green check box and the notation "Already installed" will appear to the right of the program name.

Not just software but hardware too

Next comes a listing of software that was installed along with various kinds of hardware. As you can see, I have a listing for the software that came with my Samsung phone and Sony Touch e-book reader.

And then the rest

At the end of the Windows Easy Transfer Reports is a list of programs that Windows Easy Transfer could not readily identify. These may be older programs that don’t store their metadata in a way that Windows Easy Transfer expects, or they may not have proper identifiers attached at all. Since I’ve been using the same software for a long time, my list of "what the heck is this" programs was quite extensive.

Here, I’ve clicked on the down-arrow next to one of the programs to show you the links that will appear when you do that.

Take this list and use it

Once you’ve got your list of software that needs to be reinstalled, there is really no quick and easy way to do it, with one exception. There’s a great web based installer program called Ninite that will reinstall (or install) a long list of apps for you, all in one go. One of the best things about using Ninite is that it automatically says "no" to apps that want to add on extra toolbars and junk, and installs just the programs you want.

For the rest of your software, though, there is no substitute for getting out your installation disks and going through them one by one. In most cases there will be updates to install, and you may have to run each application after it’s installed to reconnect it with its data on your hard drive. Some older software may not run properly after the reinstallation. I ran into this problem with Eudora, my email application—yet another one of those "die-hard, long-term user" programs that I’m not willing to give up. However, that was a rare exception. Most of my programs reinstalled quickly and reconnected with their data easily.

And now I’m on my way

Windows Easy Transfer made it easy (if not very quick) to back up the important data and settings on my computer and return them after Windows 7 was installed. Windows Easy Transfer Reports gave me a comprehensive list of what I had. If I’d read our previous tutorials, I would have known that I could have uninstalled plenty of things or told Windows Easy Transfer not to include them in the backup, and saved myself many hours of waiting for the backup to complete.

Have you had good or bad experiences with Windows Easy Transfer Reports? Can you tell me a better way of going about things than what I did? Please leave a comment!